Interviewed by Kiernan McGorty on February 11, 2011 in Bill’s former home at 504 East Jones Street, Raleigh, NC, where Kiernan currently lives with her husband. The interview was recorded by Liz Lindsey.
“In 1937, Bill Marsh and his wife come over to Raleigh to open Krispy Kreme Doughnuts and it was in a little room behind the Person Street Pharmacy, which was across the street. It’s not where it is now. I went over there. I was 15 years old and I couldn’t get a working permit. They had a long vat. They would cook the doughnuts and take a wooden stick and turn them. Well, I went over there and helped them and the way they paid me. I couldn’t get no money. So they’d glaze the holes and give me the holes. And my brothers and sisters would whole lot rather have them than have candy or me getting money.” – Bill Hutchins
Bill Hutchins moved to 527 North East Street in 1934 and lived there with his eight brothers and sisters and parents for most of his childhood. He lived at 504 East Jones Street in Oakwood with his wife Hildred Hutchins for many of the sixty years they were married.
Kiernan: We’re going to focus on the neighborhood today. So I know all the stories about the Raleigh?
Bill: I’m going to start off with the starting of Wake County.
Kiernan: Yeah. I don’t think they want all of that. They just want to focus on Oakwood. So I have some questions and then you answer the questions. Cause you know I’ll back over here and you can tell me all the stories that-
Kiernan: another time. I guess.
Bill: I was going to be on a little ego trip about my family. Now I’m the black sheep of the family. I used to always cut school. Doug Talson and I would go out to Central Prison, hop the freight, and go to Cary High School to date girls. Now all my brothers and sisters were brilliant students. My brother next to me, Charles. That brother right there. He went to Murphy school, Hugh Morrison high school, University of North Carolina, taken two courses a year. That’s eight courses. Never was absent, tardy, none of them. In November of 1944, he went into the Army. And he went to Luxembourg, then Munich, and then Berlin. And never got a scratch. 24 years. He was never absent nor tardy. And Ford Motor company tried to get him to take the Ford Dealership at Crossroads. And Charles turned it down. He said Wake County ain’t big enough for two Ford dealerships.
Kiernan: Bill. Can you start out talking about what house you grew up in?
Bill: Oh. Now that ain’t 504.
Liz Lindsey: If you all don’t mind, can you say “my name is, and then your name and where you live.”
Female: So today’s date is February -
Female: 11th. And we’re here with.
Kiernan: I’m Kiernan McGorty and I currently live at 504 East Jones Street, which Bill used to live in.
Bill: I’m Bill Hutchins living at 704 Dennis Avenue in a home I built 52 years ago. I needed a smaller house since my wife’s health is gone.
Kiernan: So Bill, can you tell us about the house you grew up in?
Bill: The house I grew up in was 527 North East Street. My house was near Peace Alley. We blocked it off when we moved there in 1932 or 33 to have chickens. The city made us unblock it cause they had alleys all over Raleigh so people that had wagons, carriages, and what have you, they could take a shortcut and would not have to go a long ways around with a horse and wagon, a buggy, or whatever. But we shut it off to raise chickens and the city finally gave in to us and let us do it.
Kiernan: And did your parents build that house? Or did they buy it?
Bill: My daddy lost his home at 1411 Wake Forest Road in 1929. Ok then. The cousins that stayed with him lived with him until 1932 when they went broke and Daddy had to shut everything down and we moved to the country off of Avent Ferry Road. We had 580 Pecans trees and you know who had to shake them. Mama got tired of the country cause she want, you know how women are, they want to be around where they can run their mouths. And so, we moved back to 527 North East Street. That was in 1934, I reckon it was.
Kiernan: And can you tell us who lived in that house?
Bill: The Blands built it around 1907. But the people that lived it in was the Holdman. Frank Holdman and his family. And Frank, to show you how smart he was, he was elected outstanding newspaper man in the United States in Washington D.C. And every time he’d come to the house, he always wanted to see my daddy cause my daddy was a word person. There was no such thing as a word in Webster’s unabridged dictionary daddy didn’t know the meaning, how to spell it, pronounce it, he was a word person. Daddy could take a crossword puzzle, he’d work it across one morning, next morning he’d work it down. He wouldn’t go back and forth like most people did. That’s how good he was with words.
Kiernan: And how many members of your- what was your family like that lived in the house?
Bill: We were a close-knit family. Mama never allowed alcohol in the house. And so consequently and it went well. I love to take a drink. If I had and she smelled it, she’d tell me to go and get out until I sobered up. I mean, I wouldn’t even be drunk. But that’s the way she hated whiskey.
Kiernan: And how many siblings did you have? How many brothers and sisters?
Bill: Nine of us. Counting me.
Kiernan: And you’re the oldest?
Bill: I’m the oldest of the 9.
Kiernan: So what was it like growing up in Oakwood with all those brothers and sisters?
Bill: We were all extremely close. Let me show you the house first. And then I’m going to show you something pertaining to my brother Frank. I told you about Charles.
Kiernan: She’s only recording the audio and you’ve shown me the picture of the house so you don’t have to find the house right now.
Bill: Let me show it to you. You’ve seen it. It’s 527 North East Street.
Kiernan: We want to know what it was like growing up in Oakwood.
Bill: Oh. It was great. We all - our family was one of the most popular families in the neighborhood. And that was on the strength of Mama standing behind us 9 kids. She knew where her kids were all the time. Never a minute did she not know where 9 of us were. And consequently we had to live the righteous path. Always catch hell.
Kiernan: So were you friends with a lot of the neighborhood kids?
Bill: All of the neighborhood kids, and some of them come from far away on their bicycles. But not too far away, like downtown and what have you.
Hildred [my wife] was an only child. And the first time I brought her over, there were 27 kids in the house. And Hildred didn’t know which way to turn, being an only child. But she finally got adjusted to it being married to me cause I was a big mouth and I always had something crazy going on. And my brothers and sisters were always foolish.
[Bill showing Kiernan a photo]
Kiernan: Where are you?
Bill: That’s me.
Kiernan: In the middle.
Bill: That’s James. These two are twins. They don’t look like brothers, but we know that they are twins cause they were born at home.
Kiernan: At 527?
Bill: No. Outside. We lived in the country. We moved after we lost 1411 Wake Forest Road.
Bill: Well, John and James were born there. My sister Mary-Joe was born. And Mama raised some much pain with daddy to get back to town, so we moved back to 527 in 1934.
Kiernan: So Bill. So after you graduated high school, did you move- when did you move out of 527.
Bill: Hildred and I got married on April 21st, 1945. We just celebrated 65 years.
Kiernan: And tell us where you met Hildred.
Bill: She came to Raleigh in 1943. Weren’t no place to stay. The war was on. Nothing being built. My uncle never had any children at 504. So Hildred, Marguerite, and Janet Parkinson, and Lily-Mae Andrews, they all moved into 504.
Kiernan: East Jones Street.
Bill: East Jones Street. And I just say 504 ‘cause it’s been that to me all my life.
Kiernan: So you met your wife at-
Bill: 504 East-
Kiernan: At your uncle’s house.
Bill: And the funny thing about it… the three girls there, and John Hugh was with me. Janet was kind of tall. She was taller than Hildred and so was Marguerite. I told John Hugh, my best buddy. I said, “John, you can mess with any girls you want but don’t mess with the little one.” That was Hildred. So we ended up courting. And two years later… she was getting out of school, got a job and got two raises and then I said, “let’s get married.” And she got two raises. Which is a joke, but I like to tell that.
Kiernan: So, after you married Hildred, when was the next time you lived in Oakwood?
Bill: We left 504. We were across the street. We didn’t know where we were going to stay. We went on a honeymoon. Mama said, “don’t worry about it; you’ll have a place to stay when you get back.” But when we got back, Ms. Shepard had a little apartment for us and we lived there for 3 months, and then moved to 426 East Jones Street. Across the street from 504. And we stayed there 5 years until we bought the little on Frank Street. We moved into it March 20th, 1950.
Kiernan: Okay. When did you- do you move back to Oakwood?
Bill: I moved from there to this house here cause I had two children, a boy and a girl on Frank Street. And consequently, I needed a bigger house so I bought this one. I had it built. And anyway, we came over here when Bill Gatling had died. My aunt could not manage it on her own. She was a person who always had somebody to look out for her.
Kiernan: And they lived in 504 East Jones Street. That’s who he’s talking about.
Bill: They had inherited it from Ernest Maynard. Did you get that article that I had on Ernest Maynard when he bought it from Francis Cameron. Where he was in the Army as a prisoner of war.
Kiernan: I don’t know if you gave me that article. But I’ll make sure to get it from you. But let’s just focus on the storyline. So you moved- explain to the people-
Bill: I moved back February 5th of 1972.
Kiernan: To take care of your ailing aunt.
Bill: That’s right. And then of course, when she died, it was left to me by her husband. It came to me and Hildred.
Kiernan: And so I want to talk about what was it like living in Oakwood during that time period?
Bill: We created everything. The historical society was created in 504. The Candlelight Tour. We started that at 504. Hildred was president of the Oakwood Society. She was always in charge of athletic club. You can’t believe what Hildred’s done. Biggest mistake she made marrying me.
Kiernan: And what about the Garden club?
Bill: Oh. Well, I got the names down somewhere. She was one of the originators in the 1940s of the Oakwood Garden club. She and Ms. Forest, Valley Henderson, and my aunt at 504 East Jones Street. The four of them formed the Oakwood Garden club.
Kiernan: And who came up with the idea for the candlelight tour?
Bill: I think it was Bill Gatlin. What happened? The city of Raleigh wanted to put a highway down North East Street and go through Mordecai and come back south on Bloodworth, which would have destroyed Oakwood and mordecai. So Bill Gatlin and Bob Hoagley, Ames Christoper, and Bill Makepiece all went to bat, got the crowd together. And we stopped the city from putting that through. And then after, Bill Gatlin got the idea. He and Bob Hoagley, they got talking about it, said, “We ought to create a candlelight tour here.” So that’s what they did and it originated in my house. Well, my house till I sold it to you but anyways, it was Bill Gatlin’s house really at the time.
Kiernan: Okay. And do you want- I know you really liked telling the history of 504 East Jones Street. Do you want to go into that history?
Bill: Oh lord. We can sit here and talk all day about that. Did I ever tell you about the front rail on that house.
Kiernan: Yes. But go ahead and tell the story again.
Bill: Well what happened. I helped take the porch off the house. That’s the reason we couldn’t get it on the national registry cause we tore the porch off.
Kiernan: And why did you tear the porch off?
Bill: Got tired of painting it, washing it, and keeping it clean. Bill Gatlin got sick and tired. Sick and tired as I got of that dad blame magnolia tree. My great aunt planted that in 1901. And across the street too, they planted that whole park. She planted both of them. My aunt did. My cousin owned a house across the street by my uncle.
Kiernan: The second Empire house?
Bill: Yeah. The 503 East Jones Street.
Kiernan: So go ahead and tell us about the stoop.
Bill: When we tore the porch off the house, we of course naturally had to build a stoop so we could get in and out the house, but you always wanted to get your house inside fixed first. So we had to get a place so we could get in. Well, we built it in and needed Pete to come over and put that rail up. They were going to come over but the Japs hit Pearl Harbor on the December 7th and stalled us on that railing until 1946.
Kiernan: So 5 years it took-
Bill: Yeah. That’s right-
Kiernan: To get the rail.
Bill: We had all those parties. People would get drunk and fall off. See I fell off of that house. I was up there painting it and I fell off of it.
Kiernan: So can you tell us what work your uncle had you do on that house when you were younger?
Bill: When I was 16 years old, those floors had about 6-8 coats of paint. Everybody painted the floor back then. No such things as sanding machines and such as that. So, Bill Gatlin in 1940, decided he wanted to refinish the floors. So I used 200 sheets of sanding paper just to get the paint off. And I fortified it. I took one and a half grid and sanded it down to where you could see the floor’s wood. I refinished every one of them floors
Bill: I loved to do that. That house has always been in my heart, really. It still is. If I was 30 years old, you’d never got it, I’ll tell you that. And if Hildred hadn’t gotten sick, you’d never got it.
Kiernan: Yeah. Well, I’m only 30 years old so we’re able to care of it.
Kiernan: And we love it too. So Bill, can you tell me a little bit about the parties you threw at your house.
Bill: So during World War II, Bill Gatlin always entertained 30 or 40 servicemen in that house. They would go to several hotels and Carolina hotel and check in, never go back. They’d all stay over here and party all the time.
Kiernan: And then when you and Hildred lived there, you had some parties there too.
Bill: My graduating class [from Hugh Morson] of 43 would come over. Hildred was involved in all the parties of my class of 43.
Kiernan: So why don’t you tell us about 504 and how the Cameron’s owned the house.
Bill: The house was built in 1829 by Robert Braiser. And I hope I get you a list of everybody whose ever owned that house. I did that.
Kiernan: You have, but you need to tell the story.
Bill: It’s dead accurate. Cause we did not do it from guesswork. We went to the register of deeds and went through every book. My daughter did it, whose a lawyer. She might’ve had some help. But anyway, we went through the register of deeds and got everybody’s name. That’s the only house in Raleigh ever been a single family home. It’s the third oldest home in Raleigh today. Have you ever been to Hayward Hall?
Bill: Well, if you ever want to go again, all you got to do is call me and I’ll get Marge Hayward to let me have the keys and we’ll go again.
Bill: Well, the Hall’s house across the street and the one next to it used to face Morgan Street. They turned it around so they could name the place New Bern place. And the house across the street is the oldest house in Oakwood. It was built in 1798 and the Whites and Holdmans lived there. White was Secretary of State. He married the original Governor’s daughter of North Carolina.
Kiernan: Which house are you talking about?
Bill: One in front of Hayward Hall.
Bill: Hayward Hall was built in 1799 and John Hayward moved into it in 1801. There’s a sign. He was elected the first mayor. They called it Police Intendant, but he was the first mayor of Raleigh. And he was also the treasurer of North Carolina from 1787 until 1826 when he died. And then Jones Street… I have mixed emotions about it being called the third oldest historic house because Andrew Johnson’s home really was. It was on Fayetteville Street. Then they moved it to Mordecai where it is now. And anyway, that really is the 3rd house in Raleigh, built in 1806. And Johnson was born in 1808, and then my house was built in 1829. And then, people say, “Well, how about John Lane house?” I said, well that was built in 1777. But it wasn’t brought into Raleigh until 1920. I tell them. I say, 504 is the oldest Raleigh house, the third oldest Raleigh house, and the- John Lane home was the- brought into Raleigh in 1920, when they extended West Street to St. Mary Street.
Kiernan: So tell us about who lived in 504 in those early days.
Bill: Oh lord. I don’t know.
Kiernan: Frank Cameron.
Bill: We bought it from the Camerons. And I don’t know where that list is. I got it somewhere, but Frank Cameron was Duncan Cameron’s brother. They owned all the land out there that’s up to St. Mary’s college, Cameron Park, all the ways to Hillsborough Street, all the land where Needham Broughton High School is, all the way to Rex hospital on Wade Avenue, all around. They owned the land galore. I got pictures of house. And anyways, Francis Cameron was a prisoner of the Yankees and he had a special pipe. And he made friends, when he was a prisoner, they were all friends. They stayed friends. Well they turned Cameron loose and he was walking up Fayetteville Street one day and his officer of the Union, saw him cause he recognized him by that unusual pipe. So they became good friends. It’s in this write-up I got. And according to the write-up, 504 East Jones Street didn’t have a number. Cameron lived at the corner, the southeast corner of North East Street and East Jones Street. Then in 1881, it became 504 East Jones Street. That’s written up in this stuff. I didn’t know this. See all this has come to me, because I was always told my great uncle bought that house in 1887. But he couldn’t have. I believe she look at that list I gave you. You can see probably, well he lived there. Francis Cameron died and left the property to his daughter Mary Cameron. We had to wait till she become 21 years of age for it to be legal to buy the property. And all the money that we paid as rent went towards the purchase of the house and we didn’t pay but $3500 dollars for the house. That was the price of the house when we bought it in 1902.
Kiernan: Yes. And so, the uncle you’re referring to is Ernest T. Maynard.
Bill: Great uncle, yeah.
Kiernan: And so tell us about him. Wasn’t he in the first-
Bill: Ernest P. Maynard. Let me show you this picture. You’ve got it, well I’ll give it to you. He was a lawyer. One of the most noted lawyers in North Carolina. 300 lb man. He was in the first graduating class at University of North Carolina after the Civil War.
There’s Ernest Maynard, no. Yeah. Right there. That’s the graduating class of University of North Carolina in 1875. That was the first graduating class of law school. Every some of these people were something big shot with the state. Everybody.
Kiernan: So tell us about- So he lived there and he married-
Bill: He married the Crudet girl. He married Albertine Crudet. Bill Gatlin’s father married El-Nora. They’re all from Meridian Mississippi. And those girls come to Raleigh looking for husbands. And then Mr. Maynard married her. I can’t remember the other ones.
Kiernan: So, did you tell me before? Did they get married at the house?
Bill: Oh yeah. They got married in that home. And the funerals were held in that house.
Kiernan: And she planted the magnolia tree when they got married.
Bill: No. She planted it in 1901. And the one across the street. They planted both of them. Cause James W. Lee built the house. You got my book and whoever wrote it is wrong.
Kiernan: Right. I know.
Bill: Cause Mr. Maynard was his lawyer. He was made chief of police in Raleigh in 1880. And Mr. Maynard was his attorney.
Kiernan: So Albertine and Ernest Maynard lived at the house and they didn’t have any kids.
Bill: Never had any children.
Kiernan: And so then their nephew, William Gatlin...
Bill: He came there the first- born July 4th of 1904. And I was born July 5th of 1924. And his wife was born July 3rd of 1907. But anyway, Bill Gatlin stayed there until he died November 11th of 1974. Then my aunt could not tolerate living by herself. She called me right regular. One night she called me four times someone trying to break in the house. So Hildred and I decided, heck we might as well move on over there. So that’s when we went back over and lived permanently. And she died and left the property to us. Bill Gatlin had actually left it to us, with her rights to live there until she died, and then it converted to me and Hildred.
Kiernan: So did Bill Gatlin move into the house when he was young?
Bill: Oh yeah. He was probably 15 months old.
Bill: See, Gatlins had a big family. And Albertine couldn’t have any children. And you know, it’s really a custom back then, if most every family had a big family. And usually there was an old maid’s sister in the family and that’s not the case in our family. But what would happen, the wife would die and the sister who was an old maid would marry the widower and the children was just like her own
Kiernan: So he moved into the house? He came to live with his aunt and uncle when he was very young?
Bill: I think 15 or 18 months old and never left until he died in 74.
Kiernan: Okay and tell us about the house behind 504 East Jones.
Bill: Well, the main thing about 504 is that I lived to tell about the back part. Your den used to sit out in the middle of the garden and you can see around where they call it the linoleum’s vinyl now. You can see where it was tacked down. You see each one of them tack holes in the flooring and that room was added to the house in 1920 and the back porch was closed in. They put a toilet in and the well was there. It sunk in to the right of the kitchen, the den, behind the den, about where the chimney is is where that fireplace, where that well was. There was this four foot well. It fell in about 1960, about 10 feet. Evidently there was an underground stream and it take the soil away and so Bill Gatlin had it filled in with concrete and then about eight feet, six, about six feet, is dirt and so-
Kiernan: He’s talking about where there was a detached kitchen. So the kitchen was out in the yard and then they attached it to the house.
Bill: Yeah and then all the stepping stones are still there. I almost took them up and I let you have them, but I said, “No, I’m not going to do it.” And something else about that house, I wanted to leave but Hildred didn’t want to, this rug was put in that house in 1912. 15 more months, this rug will be 100 years old.
Kiernan: That’s incredible. So the house behind our house is 115 North East Street?
Bill: Built in 1910. There were two old maid sisters. Mister Maynard figured it’d be better to have old maid sisters in their own house rather than living with him and Louie and there was Aunt Louie and I forgot the other one’s name.
Bill: So anyway, one of them loved to tidy and the other didn’t and they fought all the time.
Kiernan: And so they were Albertine’s sisters?
Bill: Yeah, and then the house next to the corner was it’s just exactly like 1910 except they’ve done some modification to make apartments out of it. Whereas 118 was always kept the same way. Bill Gatlin wouldn’t let nothin’ be done to 118 at all. He just rented the whole house. Anybody that didn’t want to rent the whole house, they didn’t get it.
Kiernan: So I just want to clarify. So 118 North East Street, the house behind 504 East Jones Street, Ernest P. Maynard built that house for his wife’s two-
Bill: Two sisters.
Kiernan: Two sisters.
Bill: Louie and why can’t I remember that name? Bad day for me.
Kiernan: It’s okay.
Bill: What was really funny. My daughter bought that house. It didn’t have a lot. Mister Maynard just went and had the house built and paid cash for it and didn’t have a piece of land and when Patton moved into it- She’s always cost me money. Cost me 550 dollars to get it surveyed. Bill Gatlin had already staked it out the way he wanted it, but he didn’t have it surveyed and so I had to have it surveyed for Pat. I let Pat have it for 60 thousand dollars. She decided she wanted to move to the coast, so Pat Simmons sold it. I called Pat and told him I wanted him to get the house because I wanted him to make the money on it and he sold it. So he sold the one you got.
Bill: Something else I’ve got to show you and you’ll like.
Bill: Ms. Maynard went on their honeymoon in the 1890’s.
Woman: Wait and tell her into the microphone.
Bill: When Mister and Ms. Maynard got married and went on their honeymoon in the 1890’s, I don’t know where they went, but this is the bottle of creme de menthe that’s left that they carried on their wedding night. On their wedding of course, they opened it on their wedding night and I’ve still got this and the reason we got it and do you still use the little kitchen?
Bill: See I always wanted to knock that wall out and use the den like one big kitchen and den out of it.
Kiernan: That’s what we plan to do one day.
Bill: Well I got too old and you’ve got to be careful because that’s a bearing wall.
Bill: That’s one of the four rooms with original house in 1829.
Kiernan: And you found that in the cupboard?
Bill: Upstairs. Over the one on the right. It was in the far corner. Bill Gatlin found it in 1940 when we were remodeling the house. So we used this as a talking piece. I hate you because I used to love to tell it. See they had a great big wide fancy stove. Not a pot belly stove that they kept the house warm and I think the doors to that living room are in that wall, but I’m not sure. Bill Gatlin thinks they’re there, but he’s not sure either.
Kiernan: Okay. Okay.
Kiernan: Bill can you tell us- I want to switch gears a little bit. Tell us about your fondest memories in Oakwood.
Bill: I’ve got so many that it’s running around with my buddies and we weren’t no trouble or nothin’ and we did steal a few bottles of chocolate milk off the front porches. Momma- The funny thing, Momma was takin’ 10 quarts of milk a day. Pine State Creamery, they wanted 10 cents a quart. Well Wilbur Yates, a good friend of the family, he owned Lakewood Dairies. He let Momma have the milk for seven cents a quart and he’s the one that owned all the vans here and went out to Yates’ pond and that area. He owned all that and sold it to Mister Findlay and North Carolina Equipment Company and Mister Findlay built the Y that’s over on Oberlin Road and anyway- I lost my train of thought.
Kiernan: Well, you were saying that you were good except you stole some milk.
Bill: Well, I actually ended up telling the people that I got the milk from. I offered to pay for it when I got into the Boy Scouts.
Kiernan: And so what about- I’m trying to think of some of the stories you’ve told me. What about that story of you walking? You went really far out of town and you had to walk all the way back.
Bill: Now that you mention that. Excuse me just a minute.
Bill: You got a copy of my book?
Kiernan: I have your books.
Bill: Now I’ve got two or three of them, because I sold 100 copies of it. I was involved with printin’ it.
Kiernan: This book is what you’re looking for?
Bill: This is it!
Bill: On page 113. This has to be read.
Kiernan: Can you tell us the title of the book?
Bill: The title of the book is “Old Raleigh Boys Reminisce.” What happened, Hardy Neals and Rick Johnson, whose grandfather owned the Carolina Power and Light Company, his great-grandfather was the Surgeon General of all of North Carolina for all the hospitals during the Civil War, but his father- This is the home. This was the home of the owner of the library here in Raleigh and his wife died real young. Lived near the library. That was the Rainy home and next to it is where the Johnson’s lived and Rick, at his cottage, they formed this book. They formed this, in other words they wanted to do this and so this is 1990-1999, all the Raleigh boys but Hardy Mills did most of it and this was the two very long walks. I want to Hugh Morrison High School from 1937-43. During my junior and senior years and this is wrong. This is when I used to hop the freight train to Cary and date girls.
Kiernan: That’s your story.
Bill: No. This ain’t the long walk. Another time two friends of my, John Hogue and [inaudible] thumbed a ride to Smithfield one afternoon to see two girls, Ann and Emma Sullivan. I had met them while working as a laborer at Seymore Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro. In those days, it was a must for teenagers to attend Sunday School and Church in the morning and Church again on Sunday night. We went with the girls that night to the Methodist church on Main Street. One person we met at church was Billy Creek who later became a prominent judge here in North Carolina. He stayed a real good friend of mine and J.C.’s. The three of us had about two dollars in our pockets between us, trying to be big shots in a small town and impress these new friends. We put every penny in the collection plate. It only cost 35 cent to ride a bus from Smithfield, Greyhound bus, to Raleigh. We left the girls about 10 o’clock and headed for the town center to thumb a ride to Raleigh. [inaudible] started teasing John about his steady girlfriend at home and John got mad and left, but I was caught in the middle because I had invited [inaudible] to go with me. I felt an obligation to stay with him. After trying to get a ride for about 15 minutes, I started walking towards Raleigh and we were about where the cemetery is in Smithfield when John went by in the back of a pickup truck and hollered a smart remark, “See ya in Raleigh.” We started walking towards Raleigh and no one ever stopped to pick us up. We walked from the town clock and the bank in Smithfield to county clock in Raleigh at the corner of Hillsborough and Martin Streets. It wasn’t more than 30 miles. It was actually 27.3 tenths miles. I went back and drove it with the car and wrote it down. It’s written down in the bottom of your book. We arrived in Raleigh about 6:30 a.m., but when I got home Momma made me go to school. Still when I got home for lunch she took one look at me and let me go to bed. I was so tired I don’t remember climbing the stairs or falling into bed. I really have never figured out the moral of this story. Could it be, one, never go to a strange church on Sunday night or, two, never put your money in the collection plate or, three, if two of your friends get mad at one another stick with the lucky one?
Bill: [Here’s another one.] In 1954, when Hurricane Hazel come through, we had an oak tree that was over 400 years old. A white oak that grew under the big bathroom. Well, the roots were under the house. When the tree fell away from the house, the trunk was over eight feet. The trunk. Not the roots, but the trunk, and the thing ran under the house. Well when it went up in the air, of course it turned the house loose and broke every piece of plastering in that house but it did not break the first antique and my uncle was in there with Bill Gatlin, my mother’s brother, and he was running around like a chicken with his head cut off because that house bounced around. The trunk was eight feet. You can always tell the growth of a tree and how much water you had by the rings and consequently I counted it twice. The tree [that we took down in 1998] was 373 years old [but the one that fell in 1954] was 407 years old. What’s that?
Kiernan: Bill, so what you were saying is that tree fell over and cracked all the plaster but it didn’t break a single plate in the house?
Bill: No. Not one single thing broke in that house in 64.
Kiernan: Except the plaster.
Bill: Pat, were you there? You were two years old.
Pat: I was at 527.
Bill: You weren’t at Bill Gatlin’s then, but you went over there right after it? Yeah.
Pat: Hazel did it.
Bill: But nothing whatsoever broke. Not one piece. Nothing at all and what’s really nice is the tree missed the garage and it missed Ms. Allen’s house. That’s all that tree did.
Kiernan: So what part of the house did it take up?
Bill: It broke plaster in every room.
Kiernan: It broke plaster in every room?
Bill: Yeah. We had to have the plaster repaired. So Bill Gatlin had it completely remodeled and the reason you ain’t got the three lamps like in the living room, it’s got five. Bill Gatlin didn’t like them. So he had Tiffany to make three shades for the bedrooms and ordered the wallpaper from Italy and he blended the lamp shade with the wallpaper.
Bill: And I give those three chandeliers to a guy in Wilmington named Bill Clinton. She went down to Kierston Park to him and said, “You a kin to Bill Clinton? You ain’t going to get these parts.” Pat had to go down there for something on business.
Kiernan: So are there other stories you want to tell us about living in Oakwood?
Bill: Well these are stories that don’t affect me because it’s way back there, but W. C. Stronach built the house at 600 North Bloodworth Street and he named it Geranium Valley. He actually was the one when they built the hospital, the first permanent hospital for the Confederacy, he took part of it loose and built that home for the old soldier’s home. W. C. Stonach was the one that built it. Well he owned the house at 610 North [inaudible] Street. I mean, the horse stables and they caught fire. 12 horses died in that house, in that barn, and three of them got out but a fire gets a horse and those three horses turned around and ran back into the house and they said that you could smell horseflesh for two miles that come out of that house. It was built there. Of course the Massey’s lived in the house there when I was a kid growing up and the house is still there and there’s probably some more I wanted to tell you, but-
Kiernan: Did you go to Murphy School?
Bill: What’s that?
Kiernan: Did you go to Murphy School?
Bill: I went to Murphy and Hugh Morrison, yeah. Yeah. I can tell you a full story. Everything about the original Murphy School, I’ve got the pictures of the original school and that’s something I had written down. I don’t know what I did with them.
Kiernan: What grades did you go there for?
Bill: One through six. You had to go to seventh grade at the high school. Seventh to 11. They put in the school supplement in 1939. Added nine grades and the 12th
grade. So I was at seven, eight, nine, 10, 11, 12. I tell everybody I went to Hugh Morrison for six years and they say, “Well we knew you were so dumb you couldn’t get out in four years.”
Liz Lindsay: When did you buy the house?
Kiernan: We bought the house just a little over a year ago. We moved in Christmas Eve of 2009 and so I’ve been talking to Bill for about a year trying to record his memories of the house and the history. All the history you can tell he has stored up.
Bill: There you are. There’s the charter by-laws of Oakwood Cemetery. 1922. Let’s see what I got here. In 1937, Bill Morrison and his wife come to Raleigh to open Krispy Kreme doughnut and it was a little room behind Percy Street Pharmacy which was across the street. It’s not where it is now. And I went over there and 15 years old, I couldn’t get a working permit, and they had a long vat and they would cook the doughnuts and took a wooden stick and turn them. Well, I would went over there and helped them and the way they paid me- I couldn’t get no money so they’d pay me. They’d glaze the holes and give me the holes. I wanted to get money. My sister went in there and worked about three or four years in high school. They moved around. See where Person Street Pharmacy used to be across the street? Next to it was A & P, next to that was David Punda which was a big store, corner store, and next to that was Piggly Wiggly, and next to that was Williams Drug Store. Well they couldn’t compete with Phillip Gaddis. My grandmother, in 1910 when he opened that store, she went up there on the day they opened and bought a tube of snuff. That’s the truth. Their stores are no longer there. A & P went out of business and McDonald ran it and Johnny Butler was the butcher. See my aunt traded there all the time. So I went there all the time. Have you ever seen them pictures of Person Street Pharmacy? You have? Well Sal’s the one that told them about them pictures. They’re dated wrong. Let’s see. 1920. Here was the Mister Lenova. Miss Healy Hutchins. Mister Forest. Asa Forest, he was the over-supervisor of Oakwood Cemetery from 1875 until he died in 1923. His grave is out there and Hugh Forest, her son, was a real good friend of mine about five years older than me, but he was still a friend, and I felt so sorry for him. He had a 34 Plymouth and going down Wake Forrest Road and of course it’s night and this kid rode out in front of him on a bicycle and he killed him and Hugh never got over it. He never did get over it.
Kiernan: Bill, you were talking about the Athletic Club?
Bill: My wife was the one that started that Athletic Club. Franklin Street used to be Oakdale Avenue. From Halifax Street to Brookside it was Oakdale and then from there to there, you know, is Logans. See that was the train station where Logan’s is now. Ain’t no telling how many boys left there didn’t come back. My brother left from there and thank God he come back. Then Hinton Street over there, you know it as Courtland Drive, runs parallel to Mordecai. The name of it was Hinton Street. Well down there in the bottom during Prohibition were the shot houses. Everybody was embarrassed by the shot houses. So they wanted the street name changed. You could go there and buy a shot of liquor or you could buy a jar of white lightning during Prohibition and so they changed it to Courtland Drive. What you know today as Holden Street was Holt Avenue. My brother was born in 1926 at 600 Holt Avenue and then we moved across the street after he was born and then this is something I’d love to tell you. Duke University, before it become Duke University, was Trinity College. In 1888, Duke played Carolina in front of the motor vehicles building, which was a ball park. On Thanksgiving Day... That was the first game Duke ever played Carolina. Probably the first game they ever played and then in 1891 at the corner of Boundary and Watauga, which was known as Swing Street at the time, was another ball park and so Duke and Carolina played there again on Thanksgiving Day and then down in the bottom there was a park. It had a merry-go-round. It had a tennis, bowling alley, a place to swim, place to boat, place to have picnics in the bottom there. That was all about 1890. I don’t know when it was closed down. I don’t have no idea. I could find out, but I never bothered to dig.
Kiernan: So Bill are there any other stories about Oakwood you want to share?
Bill: Gosh. There’s probably about 10 million. I just can’t think of them.
Kiernan: Well you gave us a lot.
Bill: Well, some of the houses coming down Jones Street--up there on corner of Jones and the 200 block, 300 block, Person Street and Jones Street on the south east corner was the J.Y. Jonah House. He was the first superintendent of public construction for Raleigh schools in 1905. Pete Blackwell bought that house later and they played poker during Prohibition and served liquor. The [inaudible] house over there would serve liquor. What they did was have a ladder and pull it up so the law couldn’t get to them. The law took a ladder one time and put it at the window and broke into it. Put the ladder on top of the roof. Used two ladders. One to get on the roof and another one to break into the room and Pete Blackwell was the one that lived there, but personally I didn’t know him, but the person that lived there was Doris Goodwin, who was one of the prettiest girls that went to Hugh Morrison High School but she was in school with her brother Charles
Kiernan: Why don’t you tell about the roof? The roof on 504.
Bill: The roof on her house was put there when the house was built. It’s basically 200 years old. Pretty close to it. It was imported from Holland and it’s made of copper, zinc, and tin and I had roofers say, “Well put some lead in it. It won’t rust.” I said, “Yeah, but lead is soft as gold and it would create leaks the minute you walked on it.” But the secret to the thing staying there was to keep people off of it. You’d step on a seam, you’d crack a seam, and the only people we would allow on that house were people that we knew, roofers. My mother’s brothers founded Baker Roofing Company and today it’s the largest roofing company in the United States.
Kiernan: All right Bill, I think you’ve given us a lot of good stuff today and I know you’re not feeling so well so I think we’ll wrap it up.
Kiernan: Well thanks Bill for an enlightening interview.